As an Amazon Associate we may earn from qualifying purchases made via links on our website.

As an Amazon Associate we may earn from qualifying purchases made via links on our website.

HomeFeaturesWhat is HDR TV?

What is HDR TV?

This article was technically reviewed by Anatoliy Mashirenko to ensure its accuracy. Learn more about why we review the articles.

Key takeaways:

  • HDR is a technology that enriches the picture on your TV with a wider color gamut, higher color volume, contrast ratio, and more precise color accuracy.
  • HDR is the set of metadata that shows how the TV should display the picture. It requires both your TV and content to support it.
  • That metadata may be static or dynamic. Static metadata is applied to the whole movie, while dynamic metadata is applied scene-by-scene. Therefore, static metadata has more limits and supports lower brightness and contrast levels.
  • There are different HDR technologies: HDR10 (static metadata), HDR10+, Dolby Vision (both with dynamic metadata), and others.
  • All HDR TVs will support HDR10, but they may separately support only HDR10+ or Dolby Vision.


Once confined to professional photography, HDR has burst onto the TV scene. In common words, that’s a technology that enhances the picture quality in movies, pushing the boundaries by displaying a wider colors gamut and highlighting the brighter parts of an image, as well as affecting color accuracy (because TV can show more colors at all) and picture contrast levels, making it too look more juicy and more natural.

HDR stands for High Dynamic Range. And it’s not about deeper blacks and lighter whites; it’s about capturing a world of details in between, offering a visual feast that’s closer to what the human eye perceives in reality.

But don’t be too fast to get excited. As with any technology, there are too many nuances you need to know about.

Not all that glitters is gold. Just because a TV flashes the “4K HDR” badge doesn’t mean it’s about to redefine your viewing experience. It’s a bit like seeing “organic” on every other product in a grocery store; the label alone doesn’t guarantee quality.

So, is HDR just another marketing gimmick, or is it genuinely the next big thing in television? The short answer: It’s a resounding yes but with a few asterisks attached.

Before we delve deeper, let’s get a snapshot of what you’re signing up for with HDR:

  • Content is King: Owning an HDR TV without HDR content is like having a Ferrari without fuel. The good news? HDR content is now abundant, from streaming platforms to the latest PlayStation and Xbox games.
  • Brighter and Better: HDR isn’t just about cranking up the brightness. It’s about achieving those highlights without compromising on contrast.
  • That’s not always about brightness. While HDR usually makes the content you watch more vibrant and bright, that’s not about this. HDR may make them even a little bit darker for dark scenes but with increased contrast and, therefore, a more natural picture.
  • A Symphony of Colors: Many HDR TVs come equipped with a wide color gamut, painting your screen with deeper and richer colors. But remember, the content needs to play along.
  • The Price-Quality Tango: Not all HDRs are created equal. While a high-end HDR TV might transport you to visual nirvana, a budget one might leave you questioning your life choices. In some cases, the standard definition might even look better on budget HDR TVs.
  • 4K and HDR – The Dynamic Duo: Most HDR content today is also served in crisp 4K resolution, making it a double treat for your eyes.
  • The Format Fiesta: HDR isn’t one-size-fits-all. The “standard” HDR is HDR10, but they way more different formats, like cinematic Dolby Vision and the emerging HDR10+. HDR10 is the basis so that every HDR TV can decode it. With other HDR formats that depend, both your TV decoder and the content should

Let’s embark on HDR TV technology with the basics out of the way.

What is HDR?

HDR (High Dynamic Range) is the name that explains everything itself. But this name says nothing for those who aren’t deep-acknowledged in TV technologies.

That’s what you need to know to understand what HDR is.

At its essence, HDR is a technology that allows it to show a broader spectrum of colors and higher levels of contrast. The counterpart to HDR is SDR (Standard Dynamic Range).

Unlike displays that show content in SDR and struggle to show the full luminosity levels, HDR screens can show both the subtlest of shadows and the most brilliant of highlights with remarkable clarity.


That’s everything you need to know about HDR with technical details.

Okay, starting an explanation from the right side is quite difficult. But let’s try to handle this.

You have a TV, and some indicators impact how the image looks like color space (the number of colors your TV can display), color volume (the number of colors your TV can display in different brightness levels), contrast ratio (how bright or dark your TV can display each color), and color accuracy (what’s the difference between the original color and how your TV would display it).

  • Color gamut (color space)
This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is color-space-1024x586.webp

That’s the entire range of colors the TV can display. That’s exactly the palette you see when drawing something in Paint. When we’re talking about TVs: the wider the color space, the more colors the TV can display to show you a more vibrant and varied picture with more colors you see with your eyes in real life. There is a variety of standards, but the 2 most common our days are Rec.709 (SDR image) and Rec.2020 (Dolby Vision). But to be more precise, A wide range of HDR TVs doesn’t support rec. 2020, that’s more like a proposed, but still not common standard. A more common standard for HDR TVs is DCI-P3; it’s much wider than Rec. 709 but supports less color space than Rec. 2020. But to be fair, your TV is likely not to match any of these standards it will probably be somewhere between DCI-P3 and Rec.2020.

  • Color volume

That’s the number of colors a TV can display in different brightness levels. Don’t be confused; the color space and color volume are two different parameters. The color gamut or color space shows us the number of colors the TV can display, while color volume represents the brightness it can display them.

Learn more about TV color volume.

  • Contrast ratio

That’s exactly how bright or dark your TV can get. That’s the space between the luminance of the darkest color your TV can show and the brightest one. It can be dynamic and static. The static contrast ratio is the difference between the brighter point your TV can display and the darkest one (that’s exactly what’s usually behind all this 1:1,000,000 number in TV specs). The dynamic contrast is the ratio between the custom brightest and custom darkest colors on the picture that the TV is currently displaying.

Learn more about the TV contrast ratio.

  • Color accuracy

This parameter defines how the TV display can reproduce the color as they’re originally intended. The higher the color accuracy, the more natural the colors would look (and the more they will reflect the colors we see in real life). When there’s a little difference between the original color and the color as it’s displayed, that’s not important; still, when they’re inaccurate with a high difference, that will make an image look unnatural.

Learn more about TV color accuracy.


These four parameters define picture quality, and each of them can be affected by HDR. And all of them affect each other:

  • The wider the color space, the wider the color volume.
  • The wider higher the color volume, the wider the contrast ratio.
  • The wider the color space and color volume, the better the color accuracy.

If you read articles on the Internet, authors usually emphasize the increased brightness. Is that true? Both yes and no. Overall, HDR increases the image brightness. But that’s wrong to see HDR as a technology that makes images only brighter. First, it expands the color volume so that the TV can show more colors. That means that image will look more natural just because it would have a wider color variety. That’s called WCG (wider color gamut), and it comes hand-by-hand with HDR, increasing the color space that your TV can reproduce.

What is WCG (wider color gamut) in your TV?

You may not notice this, but your TV is simplifying colors, called banding. Each color is gradient, from black (or something near it) to the brightest tones. And in real life, Deane Judd and Günter Wyszecki, in their bookColor in Business, Science, and Industry,” write that humans can distinguish around 10 million colors.

But if we create a color gradient, banding will simplify different shades. And that’s why colors look unnatural. WCG increases the color space and color volume, so now colors would be more like the ones you see in real life.

Here’s what it looks like. The right one is with extended color space:

And you shouldn’t take HDR as a feature to increase brightness; first of all, it allows the TV to reproduce more accurate colors and more natural pictures. Usually, that really results in a more bright and vibrant picture. But in dark scenes, that may result not in increased brightness but in increased dark levels and more dark shades. Here’s an example:

And since there are more colors to display, the colors would be more accurate, as with HDR, the TV can display more colors at all. The picture above, powered by HDR, looks more natural, reflecting the way it was filmed with increased dark levels of blue and violence.

In the same way, HDR will affect the bright picture, enriching it with more shades. Some areas of such a picture will become even brighter, while others will be darker, reflecting the natural shades that were initially filmed:

As you see, that’s not just about the brighter picture but more shades. The picture looks more vibrant with the wider color gamut.

Does HDR worth it?

HDR stands out like a beacon, but does it truly matter? Absolutely. HDR, or High Dynamic Range, isn’t just another fleeting trend; it’s a transformative leap in visual storytelling.

While SDR TVs often fall short of showing you the world’s vibrancy, HDR TVs bring scenes to life, showcasing dazzling highlights and profound shadows with unparalleled clarity.

It’s about experiencing sunsets that blaze with intensity, night scenes that retain their mystery, and colors that pop with authenticity. But beyond the visuals, HDR matters because it mirrors the richness and depth of our real-world experiences, bridging the gap between cinematic fantasy and tangible reality.

My opinion: HDR definitely worth it. If you never used it before, that may not be obvious, but once tried, that would be hard to switch back to the SDR picture.

How does picture metadata work?

Metadata might sound like a jargon-laden afterthought. But that unsung hero plays a pivotal role in shaping your viewing experience. So, what’s the big deal with metadata?

At its core, metadata is a set of instructions sent along with the video signal, guiding the TV on how to display the content. Think of it as a director whispering cues to an actor on stage. There are two main types of HDR metadata: static and dynamic. Static metadata remains consistent throughout a movie or show, setting a single tone for the entire performance. And static metadata imposes its limits, as the peak brightness and the dark shades volume can’t be as high (or deep) as they can be, as they will conflict with each other. So static metadata limits the color volume.

Dynamic metadata, on the other hand, is the method actor of the duo. It adjusts on a scene-by-scene basis, ensuring that a moonlit night looks as enchanting as a sun-drenched beach.

The real magic happens when dynamic metadata flexes its muscles. For instance, it can tweak peak brightness levels to make certain scenes truly stand out. This adaptability offers a clear edge over static metadata, which maintains a uniform brightness, sometimes leading to scenes that are either too luminous or not quite dark enough.

But here’s the kicker: both static and dynamic metadata outshine Standard Dynamic Range (SDR). While HDR content is mastered to shine at a minimum of 400 nits, SDR lags behind at 100 nits. Given that most modern TVs can effortlessly hit the 100 nits mark, the brighter displays truly harness HDR’s luminous potential.

Now, let’s talk HDR formats. There are a lot of them, and I will explain them in more detail in the next paragraph, but here’s what to know on the shore. There are two most common: HDR10 and Dolby Vision. HDR10, despite its futuristic name, uses static metadata. Its dynamic counterparts, Dolby Vision and HDR10+, are where the action’s at. But here’s a curveball: they’re distinct formats. Some TVs embrace both, while others play favorites. This choice matters. If you’re binging on Dolby Vision content from Netflix but own a TV that’s loyal to HDR10+, you’re missing out on some visual flair. But don’t worry; all TVs that support HDR support HDR10 (the one with static metadata).

How does HDR work?

Now, the source and the TV are two major parts to show you HDR pictures. To get an HDR image, both of them should match. Your TV should be able to understand metadata and transform them into images, while the source (like a movie) should have this metadata written down.

Of course, to deal with HDR, the TV’s display should support enough color volume and color gamut. And then content comes into play. That’s the most difficult part. If the content you’re watching doesn’t support HDR, your TV has nothing to do with this.

But the content would soon be not a problem. HDR becomes common, even in mid-end TVs, and content-makers are going in front of this process. So a great part of modern content comes with HDR support; you can watch it on your HDR TV.

Each movie and show has its own color style: from warm palettes for romantic movies to cold and unwelcome colors in thrillers. These colors play with your emotions, setting your mood and impacting how you take each title. Much of that emotional impact comes from the meticulous work of directors, cinematographers, and colorists. Together, they paint the canvas of film, using the vast palette of the Digital Cinema P3 color space (or Rec. 2020, if the movie supports Dolby Vision) to craft scenes that resonate deeply with viewers. These artists conjure up mesmerizing hues, from the rich teals of a tranquil ocean to the fiery oranges of a dramatic skyline.


When it comes to SDR, the standard mode for most TVs in the near past, the journey from the director’s vision to your TV screen is fraught with compromises. To adapt cinematic masterpieces to TVs, the creative team often has to dial down the brilliance, trimming the dynamic range and muting the colors to fit the TV constraints. You witness a watered-down rendition of the original vision on your screen.

Some believe the TV settings will help, like a Vivid/Movie mode, will help enhance the picture. Well, it may help, but if you’ve ever fiddled with your TV settings, such a mode will let you watch an exaggerated, artificial version that’s far from the director’s intent.


Here HDR comes into play. Now, the content may include the HDR metadata, and if you have an HDR TV, it would be able to read and use this data to show you the picture much closer to the original intent. But like with almost any technology, there are different approaches, as I said already: HDR10, HDR10+, and Dolby Vision. There are others as well, I just named the three most common.

Different HDR standards: HDR10, HDR10+, Dolby Vision

HDR is becoming an industry standard. If even 3 years ago that was something new and not widely adopted (and, therefore, supported), currently that’s almost the mainstream part of the TV industry.

But as with any groundbreaking tech, it’s not a one-size-fits-all affair. The HDR has multiple standards, each with unique flair and differences. Here are the most common standards comparison in one table:

HDR StandardMetadata TypeColor DepthPeak BrightnessSupported DevicesFeatures
HDR10Static10-bitUp to 1,000 nitsMost 4K TVs, Blu-ray, Streaming platformsOpen standard; widely adopted
HDR10+Dynamic10-bitUp to 4,000 nitsSelected TVs (Samsung, Panasonic), Amazon Prime VideoEnhanced version of HDR10 with scene-by-scene optimization
Dolby VisionDynamic12-bitUp to 10,000 nitsSelected TVs, Blu-ray, Streaming platforms (e.g., Netflix)Premium HDR format with higher color depth and brightness
HLG (Hybrid Log Gamma)N/A10-bitVariableBroadcasting (BBC, NHK)Designed for live broadcasts; no metadata required
Advanced HDR by TechnicolorDynamic10-bitVariableSelected devicesAdapts SDR content to HDR displays


The most widely adopted HDR format, HDR10, is like the trusty Swiss Army knife in the world of HDR. With its static metadata and 10-bit color depth, it provides a significant boost over Standard Dynamic Range (SDR). Capable of peak brightness up to 1,000 nits, HDR10 is supported by a vast majority of 4K TVs, Blu-ray players, and streaming platforms. And it’s supported by almost every HDR TV, so that’s currently an industry standard.

But its static metadata is the limitation. As I said, static metadata means that brightness levels and contrast ratio are pre-defined not for every scene but for the full movie or show. And that imposes some limits, as they should be defined as a way to prevent pictures from being excessively bright or dark when that’s not needed.


Think of HDR10+ as the younger, more dynamic sibling of HDR10. Building on its predecessor’s foundation, HDR10+ features dynamic metadata, allowing scene-by-scene optimization. This ensures that each scene is displayed with optimal brightness and contrast levels. While its adoption isn’t as universal as HDR10, platforms like Amazon Prime Video and brands like Samsung supports this standard.

Actually, Samsung is the brand behind HDR 10+; the company decided to promote this standard over Dolby Vision, so there’s a little mess inside the industry right now, as some brands and companies are supporting and promoting HDR10+. In contrast, others are on the board with Dolby Vision.

Samsung has integrated HDR10+ in a wide range of their 2023 lineup, but since the company sees HDR10+ as the competitor to Dolby Vision, it eschewed Dolby Vision support entirely.

Is that the right move? I’m not sure. Dolby Vision is better on almost any parameter: from peak brightness to color depth. So probably, that’s a move that’s pushing the industry in the wrong direction.

HDR10+ covers the color gamut of DCI-P3 at a minimum. P3 is a more narrow color space compared to Rec. 2020.

Dolby Vision

Dolby Vision is the luxury sedan of the HDR world. With a staggering 12-bit color depth and the ability to reach peak brightness levels up to 10,000 nits, it promises a cinematic viewing experience. Its dynamic metadata ensures that content is displayed with impeccable precision. While it’s a proprietary standard, its adoption is growing, with platforms like Netflix and a range of high-end TVs offering Dolby Vision support.

There’s also a Dolby Vision-IQ. That’s an add-on to the Dolby Vision standard that makes metadata dynamic and real-time changing to adapt to your TV’s environment. Therefore, depending on the ambient lighting, the TV will adapt picture brightness and contrast. The idea is great, but its realization is currently under question. All I saw and watched isn’t as great as it sounds. But since this technology will evolve, that may be the next big move in picture quality.

HLG (Hybrid Log Gamma)

HLG is a unique beast in the HDR arena. Born from a collaboration between broadcasting giants BBC and NHK, HLG is tailored for live broadcasts. Unlike other HDR standards that rely on metadata, HLG works without it, ensuring seamless integration with existing broadcast infrastructure. It’s the go-to choice for live sports events and concerts, bringing the thrill of the stadium right into your living room.

It works like both images: SDR and HDR combined into one feed, so TVs that support HDR will show you HDR image; the ones that don’t will come with SDR picture.

Almost all HDR TVs support it, so your TV is likely to support HLG. But the content is a problem; there are not a lot of broadcasters that use this format, at least for now.

Advanced HDR by Technicolor

Technicolor’s Advanced HDR is all about flexibility. It’s designed to adapt SDR content to HDR displays, ensuring that viewers get an enhanced experience regardless of the content’s original format. While it’s not as widely adopted as some of its counterparts, its ability to bridge the gap between SDR and HDR makes it a noteworthy contender. But that’s more a concept than something from real life; it isn’t widespread, even taking into account that this format is quite promising.

Don’t confuse TV HDR and photo HDR

That’s not the same thing. Photo HDR combines a lot of shots to try to make an image with more additional info. Photo HDR involves the synthesis of multiple independent photographs, each captured at varying exposure levels. These individual images, referred to as ‘stops,’ range from underexposed (dark) to overexposed (bright), with each successive stop doubling the light captured. High-end cameras and advanced smartphone applications harness this technique, merging the distinct qualities from each stop to produce a singular, well-balanced image. At least in theory, in practice, HDR for photography usually offers you something you don’t want to see.

But in essence, that’s just two different approaches, as the photo doesn’t include any additional metadata that pushes its color gamut or volume further; that’s still SDR images, just not made with one shot but created from a combination of various photos.

So still, they may sound like something common and may sound like one technology, but they’re completely different. And that’s what you need to know.

How to check whether you’re watching HDR content or no?

The only way is to check your TV settings to find out if HDR is enabled. If you’re using HDR in gaming, you probably need to turn it on in the game settings menu. Also, don’t forget that in most streaming services, HDR isn’t supported in the basic plans, so if you want to watch HDR content, you probably need a plan higher than the basic one.

Instead of afterwords

Okay, HDR is a great thing, and everybody gets this—the future of TV and blah-blah. Waiting for more content and for expanding this standard. That’s fine there. I think the article is as comprehensive as possible, 3645 words, even hard to read. Hope it will help you.


I wasn’t writing it alone. Here’s every person that helped me to write it:

  • Valeriy Artamonov read this article like 10 times to make sure it sounds great. He also helped me with pictures and explanations.
  • Anatoliy Mashirenko reviewed this article and made sure there were no technical mistakes.
  • Vlada Komar made the featured picture for this article and wrote an explanation about the TV color space; she also made pallets for color volume, contrast ratio, and color accuracy.
  • Ivan Makhynia helped explain color accuracy and the difference between TV HDR and photo HDR.



Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Related articles